Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Day 2 : Eigergletscher
Day 2: Wengen-Kleine Scheidegg-Eigergletscher (Eiger Glacier)
7.30am. Cold, cold start. A quick burst of heating in the van for 20mins, just to take the chill off. Porridge and bananas, as usual, for breakfast. Rucksacks packed and we were off for about 8.30. Ten minute stroll to Lauterbrunnen station and we were on the WAB train to Wengen, 1275m. The beauty of this campsite, apart from spectacular scenery, is its proximity to Lauterbrunnen, its pub, restaurants, but most important of all, its stations for chairlifts and trains, being the main form of transport up and down the mountains.
20mins later we were in Wengen, in the early morning sunshine. Clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight and the prospect of another glorious day in the mountains. We had a steep climb up from Wengen on good, wide tracks leading up through coniferous forests. Passed a helicopter team busy shifting felled trees around. The helicopter is the Swiss workhorse around here, waking us up at 7.45am every morning, if we weren’t already up!!
About 3hours later we turned the corner to Kleine Scheidegg. Wow what a view! You felt like you could almost touch the Eiger, right in front of us, dwarfing the tall, wooden chalets of Kl.Sch. Its infamous North Face (Nordwand), in total shadow, dark and menacing. The little red train could be seen, weaving its way up the increasingly steep, narrow track, achiving its busy goal. Kleine Scheidegg is a busy little crossroads with trains arriving and departing constantly. Just a couple of swiss-style hotels and lots of bars and cafes. If you want to be careful with cash, like we do, you make your own cheese butties and tea-loaf to keep you going on the hike. But you needn’t fear of going hungry or thirsty on all but the mountaineering routes in the Oberland! Paths in the middle of nowhere can be guaranteed to work their way towards a “hut” of varying degrees of comfort, ranging from four walls with a view to die for, to one selling bed and board, fruit tarts and beer!
But if you’ve got an itinerary, linking with trains off the mountain and getting back before dark, you can’t stop for beer and rosti, so cheese butties on the side of the mountain will have to do!
Today, “lunch” was under the Eiger, looking down towards the valley where Grindelwald sits. A quick call to Kate, back home, to check that all was well. She was bored, had organised a fitness regime for herself, and wanted to know where the cardboard, sugar-paper and glue was, to make Vicki her 21st birthday card. They always used to share the same birthday party when we lived down in Buckinghamshire. A rather surreal phone call to be having sitting under the Eiger. “Yes, the cardbord’s on top of the utility unit and the glue’s in the cupboard. We’re looking up at the Eiger!”. “Oh, that’s nice! Anyway got to go, mum!”
We walked along to the awesome Eigergletscher, a massive glacier working its way around the base of the Eiger. Ian told me of how, in 1936, a climber lost his life, dangling off a rope, on the Eiger, with people trying to reach him through “windows” cut out of the Eiger, formed when the railway to the Jungfraujoch, “Top of Europe” was constructed. The poor guy died whilst being so close to safety. Not worth losing your life over!
On the spur of the moment we decided to go to Top of Europe/Jungfraujoch, which sets of from Kleine Scheidegg and takes approx an hour with two five minute stops, to get to the top. The highest railway in Europe, with 10km of it tunnelling through the mountain side. Amazing engineering. Surrounded by a carriage full of sleeping, jet-lagged Japanese, with relaxed on the train ride, stopping first at the aforementioned Eiger wand, a window cut out of the Eiger, which can be used to rescue endangered climbers. Then we stopped briefly at Eismeer, which looks out onto the Monch mountain, one of the “Holy Trinity”/ the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau, which dominate most of the trails.
Finally we arrived at the Top of Europe, and could look down on the beautiful Aleitsch Glacier, which is the one that you see on most of the famous photos of the Swiss mountains. Restaurants, gift-shops and sculpted ice gallery all had to be ignored. A spur of the moment decision meant that we hadn’t long to spend, (but long enough for Ian, I suspect!), so we headed straight for the walk out onto the snow and ice, with unimpeded views over the mighty glacier. Clear blue sky, blindingly bright white snowy mountains, no wind even 3500m up. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
Two train journeys later, we were back in Lauterbrunnen. The sun had gone off the valley, even though it was still shining brightly up in Wengen, and it was beginning to get cold. But we managed to round a perfect day off with a bbq!
Ps. At 80euros, being half-price as an extra bonus of taking the 6day pass, this was an expensive trip. Glad we tagged it onto the walk, though, rather than making a whole day of it, because this briefer visit was enough, when there so much else to see here!